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Late last week the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its funding proposal for Fiscal Year 2014 by a party-line vote of 16-14. The bill funds all discretionary programs in the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Departments as well as a number of other critical domestic programs.
However, the Senate Committee did not provide any new funding for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). Indeed the bill is almost silent on this important program. This continues to leave the NHSC completely dependent on the temporary ACA Trust Fund, which is slated to end October 2015. The Trust Fund does provide $305 million for FY 2014; this funding level is before any sequestration cut may be applied. Last year the sequestration cut was 5.1%, resulting in 171 fewer loan repayment contracts than originally planned. If sequestration is applied again, it will cut even deeper into the NHSC’s ability to place new providers in underserved areas.
The Labor, HHS bill in its current form means that the NHSC’s days remain numbered. On October 1, 2015, thousands of safety net facilities across America will lose access to nearly 9,000 desperately needed front-line clinicians, when all NHSC funding ends.
“ACU has long supported the National Health Service Corps, and we are very concerned that Congress has not yet resolved the long-term funding issue facing the Corps,” ACU Executive Director Craig A. Kennedy said today. “The NHSC is a critical program that brings health care to the hardest hit areas of our country. We stand ready to work with leaders in Congress to ensure the financial health of this program, beyond the ACA Trust Fund expiration date.”
Since 1972, the NHSC has been funding primary health care providers who choose to serve in underserved areas of the country. The ACA established a mandatory trust fund for the NHSC from FY11to FY15 to expand the NHSC above the previously appropriated levels, but all regular appropriations have now been cut, leaving the program totally dependent on the ACA Trust Fund for its continued existence.
House Appropriators have not yet set a date for consideration of the bill.